TARGET's commitment to eliminating female genital mutilation (FGM) in Guinea-Bissau
Background Information Guinea-Bissau and FGM
The imams in our teams explicitly asked whether they might visit the villages and mosques that showed resistance to the idea of discontinuing the practice of FGM last year again to win their support for protecting girls against FGM. This is a major challenge that takes courage and time; the teams therefore visit every village where resistance is high for two days to engage the imams, opinion leaders and village chiefs, women, men and young adults in dialogue. This new stage of the initiative not only relies on the "Golden Book" but also on other communication methods, for example a brochure based primarily on pictures in the local vernacular Crioulo and authentic video messages about the harmful consequences of FGM from doulas, a woman who was subjected to FGM, a former circumciser, a legal expert and a player from the national football team, all of them Muslims.
2015 - 2016
In 2015 and 2016, we employed a new, intensified strategy on the basis of the findings from the work so far. Distribution teams were established. Each of these teams consists of two imams, one Muslim assistant and a driver.
The Syrian-Austrian imam Tarafa Baghajati extensively prepared the teams for their mission over the course of a four-day workshop; the agenda also included sermon practice. Thoroughly equipped for the task ahead, the teams then visited every mosque in the country, including many in remote and difficult to reach villages, by car, motorbike or even by public transport over the next 12 months. During these visits, they focused intensively on raising the awareness of female genital mutilation in the context of Islam.
Overall, the teams visited 826 mosques and reached 1405 imams, with whom they discussed the religious reasons for eliminating FGM; 1041 "régulos" (traditional kings), village chiefs, committee heads and other influential people attended their visits. Many villagers listened in on these meetings.
With an imam from each of the respective ethnic groups who spoke the respective local language, our initiative managed to cover all regions of the country and all sectors where Islamic communities live. A not insubstantial 60% of the communities reached in this way are now considering putting an end to this custom or have even already stopped practicing FGM. An excellent result that is due to the outstanding efforts undertaken by the local imams!
The country's Islamic Council asked TARGET to translate its "Golden Book" into the official national language, Portuguese; the Al Azhar University ambassador Prof. Muhamad Shama then wrote a foreword, addressing Guinea-Bissau's imams, and the Declaration of Bissau against FGM was also included.
In the country's nine regions, the initiative was introduced to imams by way of one-day seminars to raise their awareness of FGM before the GOLDEN BOOK was presented and handed out. A total of 575 imams and 148 people working in healthcare and education took part in the seminars; all in all, 3345 copies of the "Golden Book" in Arabic and 5439 copies in Portuguese were handed out.
Start of the campaign in Guinea-Bissau with the Islamic conference on the elimination of female genital mutilation in cooperation with the high council for Islamic affairs in Guinea-Bissau (CSI) and the locally based network DJINOPI / WFD e. V.. On this occasion, high-ranking imams from Guinea-Bissau and scholars from Al-Azhar University and from Syria, Gambia and Mali acceded to the Declaration of Bissau, which states that neither the Quran nor any of the hadiths prescribe FGM, and that the practice "clearly contradicts Islamic law".
Guinea-Bissau and FGM
Guinea-Bissau/West Africa has a population of 1.7 people. It is a multi-ethnic country with 25 ethnic groups sharing a territory smaller than Switzerland. Guinea-Bissau is one of the world's poorest countries; life expectancy is 55.2 years, the proportion of illiteracy lies at 60%, the infant mortality rate at more than 90 per 1,000 live births. In Guinea-Bissau, the genitals of 50% of girls and women (aged between 15 and 49) have already been mutilated. Female genital mutilation is mainly practiced by Guinea-Bissau's Islamic ethnic groups. The country's Muslim immigrant population from neighbouring Guinea-Conakry also practices female genital mutilation.